Festival brewed up by Aussie mates proves crafty idea

Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone
GABS chalk and paddle.
GABS Royal Exhibition Building.
GABS woman having beer tasting.

Are you visiting Melbourne in May?

An idea brewed up by two Aussie mates, who met over a few pints, has lead to the largest craft beer festival of its kind in this country, featuring some of the world’s leading brewers and creating a following of thousands.

Some ten years ago filmmaker-turned-bar owner Steve Jeffares and actor Guy Greenstone met at Steve’s local pub in Melbourne aptly named The St Kilda Local, and after several years formulated a plan to re-develop and re-launch the pub into what is now known as The Local Taphouse, a multi-award winning specialty beer venue.

Re-creating their idea in Darlinghurst (and after pioneering dozens of small scale events to promote the increasing diversity in craft beer) the pair master-minded a plan for a unique craft beer festival –asking some of the best brewers across Australia and New Zealand to create one-off, creative brews specifically for a three day event in Melbourne.

The result? Sixty brewers from across Australia and New Zealand created unique beers with ingredients such as chocolate, chilli, Ethiopian coffee beans, Earl Grey tea, rose petals, watermelon, rum and beetroot… and the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) was born.

The inaugural event was a hit with beer lovers too, with a crowd of close to 11,000 attending.

One year on, and the event has almost doubled in size – with more than 100 exclusive, new release brews at GABS 2013 in May.

This year there will see an even stronger Australian contingent with as many as 80 breweries showcasing their own creative brews including Feral Brewing (WA), Mornington Peninsula Brewery (VIC), Bridge Road Brewers (VIC), Murray’s Brewery (NSW) and Wig & Pen (ACT).

The Kiwi brewers, Yeastie Boys, who took out the People’s Choice Best Beer Award last year are also planning a come back, along with 8 Wired and the Garage Project to name but a few.

In what Jeffares says is one of the most exciting developments this year, some of the most renowned craft breweries in the world will feature including Sierra Nevada Brewing Co (USA), Brooklyn Brewery (USA), Thornbridge Brewery (UK), Birra del Borgo (Italy), Mikkeller (Denmark), Camden Town Brewery (UK), Baird Brewery (Japan), Nøgne ø (Norway) and Moylan’s Brewery (USA).

Jeffares says other changes this year will mean much quicker access to beer at busy times and better opportunities to meet brewers.

“This year will see a ‘Beer Market’ for the first time, where up to 60 breweries and industry related businesses can showcase their products and visitors to the event can meet and talk to some of the brewers behind the beers. It also means another way to access a great beer, minimising waiting time at the main shipping container bars, which have also been re-designed.”

Greenstone says the hall itself, with a setting for up to four thousand people per session, also offers a new experience this year.

“We’ll be transforming the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building into a grand beer hall again, but with the addition of the bustling Beer Market and food stalls now coming inside there’s even better ways of sampling and appreciating all the beers with your partner, friends or family.”

Craft Beer Industry Association chair Brad Rogers says events like GABS play a key role in showcasing the variety of Australian craft beers now available in this country.

“Events like GABS not only offer a unique consumer experience to see the quality and diversity of Australian craft beer now available, but it also encourages people to travel and engage with their own local brewery or bar whether that’s in the regions, or their own city.”

That’s something Jeffares is hoping will transpire from the more than 12,000 people expected to attend this year’s event.

“We’ve been really humbled by the response both from industry and those really passionate about great beer and hope to continue to grow the event, but importantly for us we really want to champion the incredible scope of what many independent, passionate, localised microbreweries are doing with high quality ingredients.”

Source = Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS)